From four-door coupes (what?) to hybrid supercars (yes!), Detroit was a glimpse into the segment-busting, earth-friendly future of motoring. Jamie Lincoln Kitman breaks down 14 of our favorites
BY JAMIE LINCOLN KITMAN
Porsche 918 RSR
Blending eco-consciousness with unchecked aggression, a la Mike Tyson's veganism, Porsche's hybrid 918—green-lit for production and shown at Detroit in race trim with a hard top—will put out 563 V8 horsepower, with an additional 204 hp assist from a pair of electric motors, a brutish combination that will melt your tree-hugging, early-adopting face off.
Smaller and lighter than the maxi-minivans of yore, C-Max makes the most of Ford's fine new Focus platform and its European pedigree, while losing little to the old-schoolers. A diminutive-sounding 1.6-liter engine provides the motivation, but thanks to EcoBoost turbocharging, it'll get out of its own way and still seat seven. Conventional and plug-in hybrids are on the way, with the latter promising up to 500 miles on a tank of gas.
BMW 1 Series M Coupe
At long last, an M car that doesn't weigh as much as the Queen Elizabeth 2 or exclusively target the cash-intensive "sporting dentist" demographic. With their new baby, BMW moves back to pitching the M car as an elemental driver's machine. A six-speed manual is the only gearbox, a turbocharged, inline 3.0-liter six good for 345-horsepower the only engine. Hey BMW—don't stop dieting now.
Range Rover Evoque
Hardly anybody takes their Range Rover off-road anymore, unless they're tending sheep in the West Midlands or blacking out at the wheel, so at long last say hello to the Evoque. Deploying a front-drive car platform and a 2.0-liter four-banger—plus surprisingly fresh (for an SUV) styling—Range Rover has built an urban crossover that we expect will look equally at home in the Meatpacking District or at rap video shoots in Bed-Stuy, while getting good mileage to boot. Not dumb.
The burgeoning four-door coupe segment reminds us of Victoria's Secret fashion show models: They all look alike, none make much sense, and you'd be hard-pressed to see yourself living with one—but, boy, they sure can be purdy. Audi's new A7 is the best-looking of the bunch, with a supercharged V6 engine and a feline profile that makes the Jaguar range look like so many Ford Tempos. Dare we say, it's the new "It" car?
Honda Civic Si Coupe Concept
For close to 40 years, the Honda Civic has been a market leader, the backbone of an entire aftermarket industry, and the default choice when the words "reliable A-to-B transportation" are mentioned. But the competition has been gaining on Honda—especially from Korea and America—and the newest Civic, previewed here in its ninth generation, is a crucial launch for the big H.
Fiat's cute bambino could be the vanguard of a new era in Italian cars for America, where words like "chic," "fast," and "affordable" replace "crap", "rusty," and other unmentionables related to their frequent need for mechanical attention. With a $15,500 base price and the cachet of buying Italian, we're looking—hoping?—for the legions of self-conscious young people to join the Italian-American community and Mario Batali lovers everywhere to give Fiat's return to the US market some real legs.
It's hard to imagine a compact SUV that doesn't double as an Ambien substitute, but Ford's new Vertrek show car—a preview of its replacement for the dowdy, Mazda-sourced Escape—gives us a modicum of hope. Sharing Ford's new C-segment platform with the C-Max and Focus should give it some on-road fizz, while start-stop technology helps cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by up to ten percent.
Toyota Prius v
One of the company's few glimmers of hope during its recent crises, "Prius" is set to become a whole model line for Toyota. A new station wagon, for those who haven't commited to zero population growth in their personal quests to save the Earth, is named v for versatility, as it sports 60 percent more cargo room than the ordinary Prius, while a smaller hatch is also coming to extend the brand. Fuel economy is said to suffer in the wagon, however. Such are the dangers of brand extension.
They call it a concept, but get ready for liftoff. Based on the AWD Countryman, the Paceman is hoping to poach customers in the growing small SUV segment. We're not too sure of specs—when we asked to get a peak at the interior, MINI advised us that it didn't exist in this concept car - but expect the usual turbocharged mayhem to arrive in 2012, tamed by all-wheel drive and Mini's legendary driving dynamics. We'd prefer an AWD Cooper S, but, really, what's not to like?
Hyundai's newest sports coupe is another statement of the company's growing design confidence, with a funky (albeit minimally useful) third door, a dual clutch gearbox and a direct-injected 4-cylinder making 138 horsepower. With only 2550 pounds to move around, it's a refreshingly lightweight sports coupe that can go toe to toe with weirdsters like the Kia Soul and the more practical Nissan Cube. And it gets 40 MPG. Hear that, Honda CR-Z?
As recently as three years ago, Buick was almost dead in the water, with little to no product (much less of the redeeming variety) and a rapidly aging customer base. Fast forward to 2011 and the brand was the fastest-growing automaker in America last year, while ruling in China. Based on the excellent and thoroughly modern Chevrolet Cruze, the new Verano returns 31 MPG on the highway and won't turn you into your granddad.
Honda repeatedly touted the new Civic's 40 MPG highway rating at their press conference, another clear sign that the new Hyundai Elantra is keeping them awake at night. It looks sharp, delivers the vaunted economy rating and comes loaded with features like Bluetooth, heated rear seats, a backup camera and a high quality leather interior. In this critical entry-level segment, where the deal is everything, it's looking like the new bogey.
New owner Fiat's slick effort to restore some class to the Pentastar's phattest ride. Seriously refreshed with a revised chassis and a horizontal grille, its big 5.7-liter Hemi V8 remains in place. Most noteworthy, however, is a new interior, an enormous leap forward from the brittle, shiny plastic dungeons seen previously. The downside? No more of the extra-fiery SRT-8 version. For now.
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